Blyth's Howson returns from third volunteer trip in four years - April 19, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth native Holly Howson has just returned from a volunteer trip in Ecuador and she’s standing on the edge of what she hopes will be a life full of travelling the world.
Howson is the recent recipient of her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Trent University in Peterborough and she hopes to eventually ply her trade all over the world. As a registered nurse, Howson would have the ability to travel the world and help people, which can’t be said for every job.
Howson, 21, just graduated and will soon be looking for a job back in Peterborough once she passes her nursing exam. However, it has been her volunteer trips in the last few years that have truly captured her imagination.
She first hit the road in the fall of 2015, working in Honduras through the organization, the Friends of Honduran Children. It was a community placement and she was part of the primary health care brigade.
As part of her work there, which spanned nearly two weeks, she taught locals about oral health and hygiene, sexually-transmitted infections, mosquito-borne illnesses and safe water practices.
The placement was in a rural region of the country and Howson was there with 19 other students. The children they taught later on in the placement often came from undesirable situations and had to be removed from their homes due to abuse or dangerous activity within the family.
One of the most memorable experiences from her trip to Honduras, her first volunteer trip, was playing with the area children during down-time.
Howson said she always knew that she wanted to travel the world; and she wanted to see more of her destination than was visible from the window of a resort. She said she knew she wanted to experience life around the world and the volunteer placements gave her that opportunity.
After her first trip to Honduras she was hooked and wanted to continue travelling and helping out all over the world.
She next travelled to Guatemala in July of last year. It was her first trip through Toronto-based Operation Groundswell, which she has come to appreciate for its work and has since travelled with again.
The trip’s theme was “Mayan Roots” and it was labelled as “backpacking with a purpose”, which has been called both voluntourism or backpactivism.
The two-week trip focused on learning about the country and its people.
Howson began in Antigua, where she learned about the city and its traditions. There, she and the group also spent some time at a coffee bean farm, learning about the country’s culture and ecology and farming in the mountains.
She and the group then visited Xela and heard an old revolutionist speak about the country’s violent past. They also took in some Spanish lessons while there, which proved to be handy in the days to come.
In Pachaj and Cantel, Howson worked on a reforestation project. She and her fellow travellers helped clear space where trees had already been planted and helped to plant over 100 more trees.
They then went to a region referred to as “Alaska” thanks to its cold temperatures where they worked on a community garden with the locals.
They rounded out the trip near San Juan with a water filtration project.
Just last month, Howson returned from her third volunteer trip, spending a week in Ecuador over her March break. Again, the trip was organized through Operation Groundswell, but this time it was themed “Food Revolutions” so it focused on food and local ecology.
For this trip, Howson was alongside 14 others from Canada, the U.S., England and Australia. One of the most interesting aspects of the trip, she said, was being a part of a group of young people from those four countries and learning about their motivations behind wanting to be involved with the program.
In Ecuador, the group worked on reforestation, gardening and working on a local bee farm, which proved to be one of the trip’s highlights.
While Howson has focused on volunteering across the world in recent years, she’s hoping that after working for two or three years as a registered nurse in the Peterborough area, she can travel once again, this time putting her nursing skills to use in special medical placements all over the world.
She has her sights set on a 40-day trip to India and potentially some locations within Central and South America, although, she admits, she’ll have to brush up on her Spanish if she wants to be a nurse in any of these countries for a placement.
However, as far as nursing placements go, she could opt for an exotic location, or she could spend some time where her skills are needed in the U.S., it will just be a matter of which opportunities present themselves.
Long-term, though, she hopes to settle down and live her life in Canada after earning her Master’s Degree. She has already been looking at universities in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Australia.